Coalition to Save College Sports Jumpstarted by Obama Meeting

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President Barack Obama is set to meet with NCAA executives and athletic directors as part of an effort to change the direction of college sports. The meeting will serve as a prelude to the announcement of a new “Coalition to Save College Sports,” created by 10 conference commissioners from the Football Bowl Division.

The movement began after several members of Congress became concerned over the academic success of student athletes.

Details for the meeting have not been released, but it is thought that a presidential commission will be discussed that would analyze how college athletics is doing as a whole.  Other topics to be covered in the meeting include how sexual abuse charges are handled, scholarship costs, and graduation requirements.

In addition, a White House official said a mentoring initiative unveiled last September is also on the agenda.

Former Virginia Representative James Moran believes that the White House will have bi-partisan support, but ultimately traction for the effort will fall on the NCAA.

“I think he can do it without asking Congress to make a heavy lift,” Moran added. “I think he recognizes the import of this and the opportunity to make substantive reform with bipartisan support.”

“The NCAA has to buy into this,” he said. “It’s got to, or it’s not going to work. (A commission) will not be able to impose a list of reforms without NCAA concurrence.”

Prior to the White House meeting, several participants will be meeting in Dallas to strategize for the meeting with Obama, reports Kirstie Chiappelli for Sporting News.

Arne Duncan has previously discussed concerns about the academic success of college athletes.  Members of Congress have expressed similar sentiments, bringing into question the academic quality of the coursework provided to those athletes in addition to the school’s commitment to issues concerning the welfare of athletes, such as health care and scholarship guarantees.

Some of these issues are expected to be discussed at the upcoming NCAA Convention. That meeting is expected to see a ruling to allow the five power conferences – the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-12 and Southeastern Conference – to make rule changes with a significant measure of autonomy, writes Matt Bonesteel for The Washington Post.  For example, the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-12 and Southeastern Conferences have cosponsored an athletic scholarship that will cover tuition, room and board, and books, as well as other schooling incidentals.

However, a number of university officials are concerned with the cost of increasing scholarships, and how it will affect each school’s ability to maintain their current number of athletic offerings.

In 2010, Duncan had previously suggested that college sports teams who did not maintain specific graduation requirements should not be allowed to participate in postseason play.

In addition, antitrust lawsuits by unpaid players who are looking for a slice of the profits they earned their schools are also shaking the status quo.  Players for the football team at Northwestern University are looking to form a union, arguing that as student athletes they are employees of the school and deserve a right to collective bargaining.

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